Scioscia comfortable with familiar order
Few deviations from normal Halos lineup in crucial Game 5
ANAHEIM -- After giving thought to lineup alterations with his team one loss away from elimination, Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to go with the status quo for Thursday night's Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Angel Stadium.
Third baseman Chone Figgins, right fielder Bobby Abreu and center fielder Torii Hunter form the top third of the order against right-hander A.J. Burnett, who engages John Lackey.
The middle third features designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, first baseman Kendry Morales and second baseman Maicer Izturis, with left fielder Juan Rivera, catcher Jeff Mathis and shortstop Erick Aybar rounding out the lineup.
Izturis, a switch-hitter, doubled and scored the first Angels run in the fifth inning against Burnett in Game 2. He came off the bench to drive a 380-foot sacrifice fly in the seventh inning of Game 3, giving the Angels a one-run lead that Jorge Posada erased with one swing in the eighth.
"Juan's been struggling just a little bit," Scisocia said of Rivera, who is 2-for-17 (.118) in the series, both hits singles, and is batting .179 in starting all seven postseason games. "To get a left-handed bat behind Morales might help."
Scioscia and his staff discussed the idea of hitting Izturis in the No. 2 spot, where he flourished during the regular season, and dropping Abreu in his more familiar No. 3 spot.
"We talked about a lot of things, and that was one of them," Scioscia said. "Whether Abreu's hitting second or third, he's still got to get in his game and hit."
Abreu is 2-for-16 (.125) in the series, the same numbers produced by leadoff catalyst Figgins.
During the regular season, the Angels were 26-24 with Abreu batting second and 34-21 when Izturis hit between Figgins and Abreu.
With Abreu batting third, the Angels were 60-35.
Scioscia and Co. also considered giving Gary Matthews Jr. a start in left for Rivera, but opted to go with the big Venezuelan.
Rivera delivered one of the biggest hits of the AL Division Series sweep of Boston, an eighth-inning, two-run single against Jonathan Papelbon in Game 3 preceding the stunning, three-run ninth-inning rally with two out.
Against Burnett in Game 2 in New York, Figgins reached base twice in three at-bats with a walk and getting hit by a pitch, striking out in his third plate appearance. Abreu flied out in all three at-bats.
Hunter doubled, was robbed of a hit by Alex Rodriguez and walked, getting the best at-bats of anyone in the lineup against Burnett.
Aybar drove in one of the two runs Burnett yielded with a single, stealing second and scoring on a wild pitch.
"You go into every game with a sense of urgency," Scioscia said, maintaining that he would manage this game essentially no differently than others. "John's got to get to a certain point in the game for us to win.
"Pitching-wise, outside of Game 4, we've pitched very well. We need to get into our game offensively."
The Yankees have held the Angels -- who hit a club-record .285 for the season with a .350 on-base percentage, scoring more runs (883) than any team in franchise history -- to a .201 team batting average and .273 on-base percentage in the ALCS.
With 12 extra-base hits, including three homers compared to eight by the Bronx Bombers, the Angels have a .329 slugging percentage. They slugged .441 for 162 games from April into October.
The Yanks are slugging .481 with a .278 batting average and .375 on-base percentage.
New York also has controlled the Angels' running game, holding them to two steals in three attempts. Neither Figgins nor Abreu, who combined for 72 regular-season thefts, has a steal in the series.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.